Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is now exhibiting 'Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map'

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Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth is now exhibiting 'Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map'
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. McFlag, 1996. Oil, paper, and newspaper on canvas with speakers and electrical cord, three parts: 60 × 100 in. (152.4 × 254 cm) overall. Tia Collection. Fabricated by Neal Ambrose-Smith. © Jaune Quick-to-See Smith. Photograph courtesy the artist and Garth Greenan Gallery, New York.

FORT WORTH.- The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth began the exhibition Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map recognizing Smith’s nearly five-decade career as an artist, activist, curator, educator, and advocate. Organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, the exhibition, that will be on view at the Modern until January 21, 2024, is a recognition of a groundbreaking artist’s work. For nearly five decades Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation, has charted an exceptional and unorthodox career as an artist, activist, curator, educator, and advocate. The exhibition highlights how Smith uses her drawings, prints, paintings, and sculptures to flip mainstream historical narratives and illuminate absurdities in the dominant culture.

Memory Map is the largest and most comprehensive showcase of Smith’s career, featuring more than one hundred works. Organized thematically, the exhibition offers a new framework to consider contemporary Native American art, addressing how Smith has initiated and led some of the most pressing dialogues around land, racism, and cultural preservation. It celebrates the artist’s dedication to creativity and community, emphasizes her deep political commitments, and offers essential and potent reminders of our responsibilities to the earth and each other.

Smith engages with modern and contemporary modes of artmaking, from an idiosyncratic adoption of abstraction to American Pop Art to Neo-Expressionism. She reimagines these artistic traditions with concepts rooted in her own cultural practice to examine contemporary life in America and interpret it through Native ideology. Since the 1970s, Smith has built a visual language that includes recurring imagery such as trade canoes, horses, bison, and flags, alongside common materials like newspaper, fabric, and commercial objects. Throughout her work she addresses urgent concerns about ecological disaster, the misreading of history, and the genocide of Native Americans, while also evoking the power of kinship and education.

This exhibition is organized by Laura Phipps, Associate Curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, with Caitlin Chaisson, Curatorial Project Assistant.

“Through her sophisticated use of color, materials, and humor, Smith’s work prompts important conversations about history and education—and ultimately about the obligations we have to each other and the world around us,” says Phipps. “From the inception of Memory Map, Smith and I had hoped for her messages and her art to reach audiences across the country and we are so thrilled to see them in the context of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.”

"The Modern is honored to host Jaune Quick-To-See Smith: Memory Maps. We are grateful to collaborate with the artist and the Whitney Museum on this important exhibition," says Dr. Marla Price, Director, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. "This is the first large-scale presentation of Jaune Quick-To-See Smith's work in our region, giving our community and visitors the opportunity to experience the important stories she tells throughout her groundbreaking career.”

Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map highlights the artist’s lifelong approach to storytelling, rooted in her abiding respect for and connection to the land. Today Smith lives and works in New Mexico, but she spent her early years in the Pacific Northwest and on Confederated Salish and Kootenai land in western Montana. Her work draws attention to the continued existence of Indigenous peoples despite centuries of attempted erasure by waves of European invaders and the policies of the United States government. Smith emphasizes that it is important that her work “leaves an imprint on the land that says, ‘we are here, we have been here, and these are our stories.’ These are my stories, every picture. Every drawing tells a story. I create memory maps.”

Early Work

Smith knew from an early age that she wanted to be an artist but was discouraged by professors who didn’t believe women—much less Native American women—could have careers as artists. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Smith drew and painted places with personal significance, including Wallowa, Oregon, and her tribe’s reservation in Montana. These works, which she came to describe as maps, reject conventions employed by Western landscape painters. Instead of romanticized panoramas that survey unpopulated lands from a distance, Smith depicts inhabited places, her mark-making conveying human and animal movements. Many of the early works exhibited in Memory Map, like Indian Madonna Enthroned, 1974, have rarely been on public view.

Dedication to Land

Between 1985 and 1989, Smith concentrated on two series that highlight her role as an activist and artist: Petroglyph Park and Chief Seattle (C.S.). Despite their stylistic differences, both bodies of work demonstrate Smith’s engagement with ongoing land rights conflicts and historical injustices. Smith became active in land preservation efforts and supported campaigns to save areas of New Mexico where ancient petroglyphs were at risk of being destroyed due to residential development efforts. Petroglyph Park is the first series in which Smith responded directly to news media, an approach that has since been integral to her practice. Works in the Chief Seattle (C.S.) series continue the artist’s critique of reckless extraction and industrialization and consider broader regional and global environmental concerns such as acid rain and dependence on fossil fuels. While mainstream environmentalism at the time concentrated on issues like pollution and recycling, Smith’s work draws a connection between the exploitation of land and resources with blatant disregard for treaties between the U.S. government and Native American nations. With the paintings and drawings in these series, Smith implores future generations to understand their connection to the land and work to forestall ecological crisis.

Depictions of a Postcolonial World

In response to the 1992 U.S. quincentennial celebration of Christopher Columbus landing in the Americas, Smith brought attention to the fact that Columbus’s arrival led to one of the largest and most sustained genocides in human history. This period marks some of Smith’s most prolific work as an artist, curator, and collaborator. She created dozens of new artworks and organized exhibitions and “anti-celebration” events with her peers. Though her politics had always been embedded in her work, this particular moment in American history became Smith’s opportunity to develop more direct and accessible approaches to her work. She introduced many of her now iconic motifs, like the trade canoe and bison, and incorporated techniques like collage. Works in this section, such as I See Red: Snowman, 1992, confront the violence of displacement and the extreme inequities of the earliest negotiations between Indigenous peoples and settlers in North America.

Reflections on Invasion

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, in response to U.S.-led invasions domestically and abroad, Smith’s work considers the conflicts incited by both colonialism and imperialism. A 1993 series of prints and drawings depict a well-known image of General George Armstrong Custer, the U.S. Army officer known for his deadly campaigns against Lakota, Arapaho, and Northern Cheyenne people in the late 1860s. Moving forward in time, paintings and prints from the 2000s communicate Smith’s outrage over the invasion of Iraq and President George W. Bush’s post-9/11 policies. Smith’s work from this period conveys her visceral and consuming reaction to the horrors of war. Paintings like Trade Canoe for Don Quixote, 2004, use art historical references like Picasso’s Guernica, images of Sumerian artifacts looted from the Iraq Museum, and political cartoons by José Guadalupe Posada to highlight how cultural property is targeted and weaponized in these conflicts.

Critiques of Capitalism and Consumerism

In recent decades, Smith’s work offers a biting critique of the dominance of capitalism and consumerism in American culture. Frequently employing satire and humor in her paintings and prints, Smith targets the imported concepts of property and commodity goods, which decimated Indigenous economies, diets, and medicinal practices. She takes aim at manifest destiny, an Anglo-Christian doctrine that positioned westward expansion and the attempted extermination of Indigenous peoples as part of a divine plan. The repercussions of these policies live on in the many ways that contemporary consumer culture has infiltrated Native American traditions. In works like The Rancher, 2002, Smith draws connections between visual tropes of the “Wild West,” like the “cowboys and Indians” seen in advertising and entertainment, and the seemingly unlimited reach of corporate influences into even the smallest and most personal experiences of contemporary daily life.

Legacy and Matriarchy

Smith often makes a simple but profound observation: “My existence is a miracle.” Despite genocide, decades of war, forced assimilation, and systemic oppression, she and other Indigenous survivors are still here to practice and share their culture. Throughout her work, Smith acknowledges that the wisdom of ancestors and elders is not only sacred but essential for protecting and preserving traditions for future generations. Throughout her career, Smith has represented matriarchal leaders across many works, conveying the individuality and strength of women who juggle their responsibilities to family and community in the face of prejudice and discrimination.

U.S. Maps

The map of the United States is one of the most central and recognizable motifs throughout Smith’s paintings, drawings, and prints. Her works reveal the falsehoods and assumptions underlying this supposedly objective image, challenging its authority and symbolic power. In Smith’s interpretations of the map of North America, the land transgresses and overruns current borders, demonstrates changing populations and notions of citizenship, and foregrounds how Indigenous peoples have shaped this continent since long before the European invasion. Smith’s works reflect her philosophy of maps: they are pictures of experiences rather than edges of geopolitical borders—an understanding of land that privileges relationships, stories, and memory.

Environment and Intervention

The industry and government abuse and mismanagement of the environment have been key concerns in Smith’s work throughout her career. As the artist has said, “ecology is a science that has been practiced by the Native peoples on this continent for thousands of years. For instance, in my tribe, after harvesting the bitterroot for the spring feast, there is the specific act of cleaning the bitterroot plants to ensure next year’s crop. This is giving back. This has been our way of survival.”


Smith’s art continues the storytelling tradition she grew up with. From an early age, she heard the creation stories of the Salish people from her grandmothers and aunts. Coyote plays an important role in these stories. First sent by the Creator to prepare the earth for humans, Coyote taught the Salish about spirituality and the sacred relationship between people, the land, and all living creatures. But Coyote is also a trickster whose lessons reveal the chaos of human lives and the hubris in their actions. Smith embraces the duality of teacher and trickster in her artistic practice: “The creator, inventor, satirist must show the flip side of things. They turn things upside down in order to lampoon the immorality or insincerity of politicians, priests, or heads of government or show the human condition.”


Jaune Quick-to-See Smith (b. 1940) is a citizen of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Nation in Montana. Smith has been creating complex and abstracted paintings and prints since the 1970s. Combining appropriated imagery from commercial slogans and signage, art history, and personal narratives, she forges an intimate visual language to convey her insistent socio-political commentary with powerful clarity. Smith’s multifaceted work is grounded in themes of personal and political identity and the importance of land.

Smith received an AA degree from Olympic College in Bremerton, Washington, in 1960; a BA in art education from Framingham State College, Massachusetts, in 1976; and an MA in Visual Arts from the University of New Mexico in 1980.

Smith has received numerous awards, including the Academy of Arts and Letters Purchase Award (1987); Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant (1996); Women’s Caucus for the Arts Lifetime Achievement Award (1997); College Art Association Women in the Arts Award (2002); New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts (2005); ArtTable Artist Honoree (2011); Georgia O’Keeffe Museum Living Artist of Distinction Award (2012); Montana Governor’s Award (2018); New York Foundation for the Arts Murray Reich Distinguished Artist Award (2019); United States Artists Fellowship (2020); Anonymous Was A Woman Award (2022); and Barnard College’s 2022 Medal of Distinction (2022). Smith has been honored with honorary doctorates from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (1992); Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia (1998); Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Boston (2003); and the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque (2009).

Smith’s work is in the collections of the Albuquerque Museum, New Mexico; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis; Heard Museum, Phoenix; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Missoula Art Museum, Montana; Museo de Arte Moderno, Quito, Ecuador; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; and Yellowstone Art Museum, Billings, Montana, among many others.

The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth Announces
Jaune Quick-to-See Smith: Memory Map
October 15th, 2023 - January 21st, 2024

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